(Updated September 2016)
The Enrollment Processes Technical Advisory and the following Enrollment Policy and Practice Frequently Asked Questions provided by Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) should be read carefully and reviewed in its entirety. An answer to one frequently asked question might lead a reader to an inaccurate conclusion when read in isolation from the Department’s guidance and answers to other frequently asked questions. Answers should not be reviewed or relied upon in isolation from the entirety of the Department’s guidance regarding enrollment processes. Please reach out to the Department if you have a question or concern that is not currently found in this FAQ.
What are the backfilling requirements for charter schools?
In conformance with G.L. c. 71, § 89(n), charter schools shall, when a student stops attending the school for any reason, fill vacant seats up to February 15th, excluding seats in the last half of the grades offered and grades 10, 11, and 12 . If a school has an odd number of grades, the school must backfill more than half of the grades offered. 603 CMR 1.05(10)(c). A vacancy not filled after February 15th moves into the subsequent grade, and the school must fill the seat by the following September, provided such grade is not in the last half of the grades offered and is not in grades 10, 11, or 12. Seats for students who have accepted an offer of admission to the charter school but have never attended are exempt from this provision. If the school fills vacancies beyond the statutory requirements, the school must clearly articulate its practice in its enrollment policy. In order to increase access to charter schools at as many entry points as possible, the Department strongly encourages schools to consider enrollment policies that include backfilling grades beyond those required by law, with which a school must comply. Additionally, this may be required as a condition when granting requests for charter amendments, especially expansion requests.
School Type: Middle
Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8
Backfill Requirement: 5, 6
School Type: K-8
Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Backfill Requirement: K, 1, 2, 3, 4
School Type: High
Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12
Backfill Requirement: 9
School Type: K-12
Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Backfill Requirement: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
During the same school year, may a school backfill a vacancy in one grade by admitting a student into a different grade?
No. If there is a vacancy in a grade where there is a backfilling requirement, the statute, G.L. c. 71, § 89(n), states that the vacancy must be filled in the grade level in which it occurs. If the vacancy occurs after February 15th, the statute requires the vacancy to "remain with the grade cohort and . . . be filled in the following September if it has not previously been filled." If a vacancy occurs in a grade for which the charter school statute does not require backfilling, the school fills the vacancy in accordance with its enrollment policy and applicable laws and regulations regarding charter school enrollment.
May a charter school count a student who repeats a grade toward backfilling a seat? Is a charter school required to backfill the seat of a student who repeats a grade?
No. A charter school may not count students who repeat a grade toward meeting backfill requirements. Students who repeat a grade also do not create a vacancy that needs to be filled because they have not stopped attending the charter school.
What are the backfilling requirements from February 15th until the last day of school?
From February 15th through the end of the school year, charter schools are not required to fill vacancies. The school, however, must keep the vacancy with the grade cohort and fill it the following September. Alternatively, the school may choose to backfill the seat during the current school year. For example, if a vacancy occurs in a kindergarten class after February 15th and is not filled during the remaining school year, the school must fill the vacancy the following September by adding a student to the first grade class.
What are the consequences for failing to backfill a vacant seat?
Charter schools must comply with the statute, which is part of the material terms of all charters. If the school fails to comply, conditions could be imposed on the school's charter and it will be considered in the school's record of performance at renewal. The Department and Board also consider failures to comply with the terms of a charter when determining whether to grant future expansion or replication requests by a school.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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